Georgia state officials resign after report on drunken ‘fraternity party’
Two top officials at the Georgia Department of Agriculture resigned for their involvement in a party at a state-owned resort that allegedly resembled “a college fraternity party” and included several employees skinny-dipping.
WXIA-TV reported on Thursday that Deputy Commissioner Oscar Garrison and Chief Operating Officer Billy Skaggs were “allowed to resign” on March 30 following an investigation into a September 17, 2012 party during a training seminar.
“I made a mistake which has deeply impacted my family for which I am truly sorry, “Skaggs said in a statement released on Thursday. “My wife and I are working through this situation as a family and ask that you respect our privacy.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the investigation, prompted by a former employee’s complaint, found that Garrison, Skaggs and another employee, Trey Joyner, hosted a party at their cabin at the Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club near Cordele, Georgia that was attended by several dozen agency employees during the three-day seminar, which cost $32,000 in state funds.
The report said the party included “heavy consumption of alcohol, music and dancing, and the environment became similar to that of a college fraternity party.” Skaggs was also found to have used state funds to repair damage suffered to a state-issued vehicle in his possession at the time. He has since agreed to repay the $151.65 repair cost. Investigators determined that no state funds were used to purchase the alcohol at the event.
The report also found that after the party, the two officials, along with six other male employees and one female employee, went swimming in the lake at the resort “in various state of undress.” Several employees told investigators that although the female employee took off her top, “nothing sexual took place.”
The female employee denied swimming topless and was not disciplined. One division director, Rich Lewis, was suspended for two weeks without pay for attending both the party and the swim afterwards. Two inspectors in the agency’s fuel and measures division were fined one day’s worth of pay, and that division’s assistant director, Marvin Pound, was suspended for five days without pay.
“I believe in forgiveness and redemption for all involved,” State agriculture commissioner Gary Black said in a statement. “But I am committed to a department built with integrity and honesty.”
Watch WXIA’s report on the party that cost Garrison and Skaggs their jobs, aired Thursday, below.
[Image via WXIA-TV]
[h/t Talking Points Memo]